By Heather McLean, instructor, Southern Crane Kungfu

Sometimes I look around my kungfu class and play a game; spot the martial artist. This might sound like an odd comment, as surely everyone in a kungfu class would be a budding martial artist, wouldn’t they? Well, no.

In China, I have been lucky enough to not only train with Masters who are at the pinnacle of their art, but also to participate in classes with their students. Now whether those students are good, bad or indifferent in terms of martial skill, they are all there purely for the kungfu.

They want to become the martial artist that their Master is, and they are willing to work hard to achieve those levels of attainment. They do not go to class for the exercise; they go to class to learn patterns that have been handed down from generation to generation of Masters for hundreds of years, and to take their own place in that lineage.

In our classes here in the UK, and I am quite sure in similar traditional martial art lessons all over the Western hemisphere, we have just a small handful of students in each class that are there for the same reasons I train, and the reasons those Chinese students opt for the difficult, long journey that is kungfu, versus some of the more modern martial ‘sports’ out there; to become a martial artist. To move like my Master. To be able to say, with confidence and humility, that I am a kungfu student.

Some of our students are in class because it’s an alternative to the gym. It’s good exercise. They get to socialise perhaps more than they would at a gym. And they get to learn how to fight.

But that is not the point of kungfu; to get any good at it, you need to want to learn, to be there for the long run, and to embrace everything it has to offer and everything it offers that you don’t really want to take. If you don’t, you are missing out.

It’s East meets West all over again; kungfu versus the gym. Be the best that you can be; learn kungfu. Or just go to the gym. The choice is yours.


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